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September, 2013 Commentary Now Available

Posted Sep 01 2013 12:10pm

Roses, Falling Eggheads, Placebos, and the B-word

What do poet Gertrude Stein and our interpretation of the bond have in common? In perhaps her most memorable line she wrote, “A rose is a rose is a rose,” a deceptively simple statement that has fueled academic discussions for decades. But according to Stein herself, the line referred to the fact that merely thinking or hearing a word suffices to elicit any imagery or emotions we associate with it. In other words and in spite of all those dictionaries out there, we choose to take a Humpty Dumpty approach:

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

(Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6)

But while I can understand the convenience of this for the speaker, it can be maddening when those in different academic disciplines and media choose to do the same thing for the same word because…

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